And it fades into red. As the 18,000-strong crowd at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan celebrated ATK’s first-ever win over the defending champions Bengaluru FC, revelling in the cherished Christmas gift presented to them on one of the coldest evenings in the City of Joy, the sight which stood out was Roy Krishna hugging each and every ATK player as the victorious team went to celebrate with the home fans.
The skipper for the night did not feature on the scoresheet unlike his recent ventures or even registered an assist, but as has been evident since ATK’s first game, was once again instrumental in orchestrating a victory against an in-form Bengaluru FC side. ATK’s superstar import Krishna played second fiddle to his former Wellington Phoenix teammate David Williams in the team’s opening fixtures, letting the indigenous Aussie lead the line for Habas’ side but has assumed a significant role as the season rolled on.
It took many by surprise when ATK landed Krishna, for the forward finished as the top scorer in the A-League last season, the 32-year-old a stark improvement than ISL’s penchant for serving as a pre-retirement destination for some of the world’s finest footballers. Krishna, however, is in his prime and a perfect example of how far the young league has come since its inception. In search of his roots here in Kolkata, Krishna has been subjected to expectations of the supporters since the first time he touched down in the city. He acknowledges that, but also admits his role in the ATK squad is more than simply scoring goals or setting them up for Williams and Jayesh Rane.
Speaking to Firstpost following ATK’s Christmas day win over the reigning champions, Krishna elaborated on his observations six months into life in India, “It’s different. The A-League is definitely different from the ISL, the most important factor being that the Indian boys need to believe in themselves. I’ve been telling them that since the first day,” before adding, “For example, today the young Sumit [Rathi] was marking Sunil [Chhetri] and he stood up to the task .”
His pride in his team evident, Krishna continued, “It feels good. Three points against a good side, champion side. We knew it won’t be easy, but I am so proud of the boys. We know we have a very strong squad. The other team [Bengaluru FC] had a lot of national team players and I just told the boys to believe in themselves, and today they did. The credit goes to the team and it is a special win.”
Krishna’s comments sharing the coveted spotlight with rest of his teammates is merely a reflection of the person he is in real life – a trait which shines through during his on-field exploits. Always selfless, choosing to drop down in the centre of the park to let the offensive transitions channel through him and eager to find compatriots in a more advanced position, Krishna’s overall gameplay is characterized by that of a generous kingmaker – covering the entire pitch and working tirelessly for his team.
His exceptional work ethic only adds to his repertoire of speed and skill, as showcased during his brace against Hyderabad FC, an encounter ATK failed to win in spite of the Fijian’s brilliant individual play. When asked if he and his side had vowed to do anything different from the few occasions when they have dropped points even after creating innumerable chances, Krishna was quick to reply, “Nothing different. It has to be more about ourselves. Against Hyderabad, we were very disappointed. But we didn’t perform to our individual standards. We’ve taken the points whenever we have defended well as a team.” The game might have been a one-pointer as far as the race for the title is concerned, but it included one of the finest displays ever by a centre forward during the short history of the Indian Super League.
And ATK has had its fair share of outstanding goalscorers, most notably Iain Hume who turned up his performances a notch during the big games, but it won’t be far-fetched to assume that Roy Krishna is arguably the most capable striker of the ball to have donned the ATK jersey. He is as adept at shaking off markers and slotting the ball in a far corner amidst a crowded opposition penalty area as he is at beating defenders with sheer pace and making the very best of them look silly with his smooth, gliding touches.
For all the complexities of football, it is a pretty simple sport when it wishes to be. And nobody knows it better than a centre forward on whom rests his manager’s and the supporters’ expectations. An inch off the mark and a perfectly executed move could fall apart for a variety of reasons – something which has happened to Krishna quite a number of times courtesy of inconsistent refereeing in the current edition of the ISL.
Exclaiming his surprise when informed his second-half goal against Bengaluru FC was wrongly adjudged offside, Krishna was quick to shrug it off, adding “Disappointed definitely, but we knew it was a tight game. I had one chance in the first half which I didn’t utilize. But I knew we will have a few chances and just need to be patient in front of the goal.”
A magnificent player, by all means, Krishna is repaying the faith ATK heaped upon him and then some more, getting better with every game. While Antonio Habas’ return to the fold has ensured that ATK has discovered a vibrant rhythm to their game, showcasing a wonderful blend of foreign stars and homegrown potential, Krishna knows they still have a long way to go, “We are going to take each game as we come across them. It’s going to be another big challenge in Mumbai as they are doing well. But we are just going to focus on us, recover well and look forward to the next game.”
In football, the demeanour of the star players is often a mirror of how the team is performing, in turn affecting the results, and the Fijian captain’s calm, confident portrayals have taken the pressure off the rest of his side, allowing the entire team to bloom even in face of pressure, or as Krishna put it aptly before signing off, his eyes twinkling, “We need to have Christmas day every day.”
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Updated Date: Dec 28, 2019 15:03:18 IST